Saturday, December 27, 2008

If You Don't Know

In case you haven’t heard, Scarface has announced his retirement. Artists make these proclamations in the sand; Chinese Democracy owns that title, but Emeritus truly deserves your praise and respect. At the other end of the tunnel, Oddisee released the album I was hoping for like a fresh pair of Air Jordans.

Scarface is one of a few reigning champions from mafia era in Hip-Hop. While LA and NYC will always be remembered as the dominant forces, Scarface is half 2Pac, half Nas, all south-side Houston, TX. He never was huge on the Billboard charts or a poster-turnstile-god; but he owns respect in the neighborhood he rose from while his lyrics mastered the trials and brought “the code to the game” for nearly two decades. One lyrical grail that I think is often passed over is the Christian imagery that bleeds its way onto thug-scripture with every Scarface release. On "Can't Get Right (ft. Bilal)," Scarface ryhmes "America the Beautiful / there's a funeral on every day of the month / tryin to get our knees up / what we want / is another chance under these circumstances / My people ain't advancin, but if we pray / Maybe we'll get to live our lives in the sun 'stead of livin on the blocks dyin young." While the relationship between sin and survival isn’t new, there are few who own a reputation as real as their poetic skill. Emeritus is raw-cut Scarface, criminal confessions burning up in the Texas heat. Do your homework and educate yourself on one of the greatest MC’s still around today.

Oddisee declares on “iRap,” “Wayne say he the greatest rapper alive / Guess that make me the greatest rapper/producer alive/ Dilla rest in peace.” I was sold. Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West are the new era right? What about the great new releases by Ice-Cube and Q-Tip? Don’t they deserve the same respect? Class, take your seats, this is Oddisee 101.

Most criticism in recent memory has tried to divide Hip-Hop, including yours truly, into configuring an economic direction during an era of inflation. 101 voices a challenge to the machine from the inside out, flawlessly aware of his place and responsibility. His sly delivery matches the production skills, a definitive statement that he isn't confined to being just another producer who dabbles being the mic. Oddisee has learned to rhyme for the K.O, take a breath, and let his opponents suck for wind during the hook.

On 101 he takes his time, laying out his conflicts with presicion and insight. Delving into Black vs. Black vs. Brown conflict in a America vs. Islam world on “Camera,” a path to the top on his own terms on “A Song for That,” respect for the sex he loves on “Delusional (ft. Little Brother)” , and adding Flying Lotus to create some dream-funk on “The Perch (feat. Phonte, Tor);” Oddisee is challenging convention with nuclear purpose.

This is the album I have been waiting on, and am still waiting to get it in hardcopy. One of my 08' favorites.

Monday, December 8, 2008

In Broken Light Shades

This might be my favorite album of 08’.

Paavoharju’s Laulu Laakson Kukista sounds like a Sigur Rós album shipwrecked on a secret island, grasped by wild vines, and venturing into the mist . Every track on this album is coming from the same environment, the same spell, which is why Laulu has wound me up. This years "top" picks will be labored over scrawl spaces in the coming days and weeks, but I am sure that every time I listen to this album, it will remain both familiar and enchanting.

Paavoharju are from Finland, the Netherlands, and other places where godly carpenters of sound are birthed. The opener, "Pimeänkarkelo” is nothing surprising to an ambient music fiend prepared for the long haul, but the next track “Kevätrumpu,” rolls through like an electronica-dance-kicker. The whole body of work is wound tightly enough that severing a single reaching limb would be a fatal loss. This is Laulu Laakson Kukista’s strength, it’s weakness, it’s story; and there are plenty limbs to choose from if you’re counting. “Kirkonväki” is a haunting martial procession; "Uskallan" a well of Beirut-style-levity, and “Tyttö Tanssii” an acoustic lullaby that brings the magic to a quilted decent. The album doesn't loose pace with bridges like "Alania" and "Salainen Huone," serving a greater purpose. So what’s to hate?

In the end, my biggest complaint is that the album is too short at barely over thirty-five minutes long. Next time I would like to see Paavoharju stretch to greater lengths, but until then, I'm addicted. The year is drawing to a close, and Laulu Laakson Kukista is one to remember.